In the course of psychoanalyzing psychotic patients, Bion came across a series of invariant clinical phenomena that seemed to characterize the psychotic personality. In 1958, he presented the paper "On Arrogance," in which he noted that the psychotic patients he was analyzing seemed to demonstrate a constantly conjoined yet mysteriously dispersed triad of phenomena: arrogance, curiosity, and stupidity. Bion was able to formulate that the root cause of this syndromic cluster of phenomena was ultimately due to a failure on the part of the psychotic patient to have had at his disposal as an infant a mother who was able or willing to tolerate his projective identifications into her. This theme of the unavailability of a receptive mother to tolerate her infant's projective identifications was to be carried through in two successive papers, "Attacks on Linking" and "A Theory of Thinking." Ultimately, it became the pivotal alteration of Klein's concept of intrapsychic projective identification into intersubjective projective identification and the foundation for Bion's later theories of alpha function and container/contained.
Bion found that, in these patients, the triad of curiosity, stupidity, and arrogance was initiated clinically by the revival in the analysis of the presence of an obstructive object, which represented the psychotic infant's projection-rejecting (part-object) mother in addition to her hostility and the infant's hostility. As an internalized hybrid, it becomes a formidable, archaic superego, which attacks the infant's normal curiosity; is arrogant (because of the projective identification of omnipotence); and conveys stupidity because of its hatred of curiosity. Bion states that where the life instincts predominate, pride becomes self-respect, whereas when the death instinct predominates, pride becomes arrogance.
The fact that the triad is mysteriously dispersed, and therefore unsuspected as belonging together, is evidence, according to Bion, that a psychotic disaster had taken place. The analytic process itself, which seeks to learn more, constitutes the stimulus for curiosity. Bion states, "The very act of analyzing the patient makes the analyst an accessory in precipitating regression and turning the analysis itself into a piece of acting out" (Bion, 1967, p. 87). The features that characterize the transference are references to the appearance of the analyst and the analysand's identification with him in terms of being "blind, stupid, suicidal, curious, and arrogant."(Bion, p. 88). What takes place is a hateful attack by this obstructive superego against the ego, either in the analysand or, by projective identification, in the analyst. Thus, either the analyst and or the analysand are targets of the obstructive object's hateful attacks.
Since the aim of analysis is the pursuit of truth (curiosity), the truth-pursuing analyst is considered to have a capacity to contain the discarded, split-off portions of the analysand's psychotic self, including the obstructive object and its destructive effects. This capacity becomes the target for envious and hateful attacks. In short, as Bion summarizes:
What it was that the object could not stand became clearer . . . where it appeared that in so far as I, as analyst, was insisting on verbal communication . . . I was felt to be directly attacking the patient's methods of communication [i.e., projective identification].
Bion further summarizes that in some patients the denial to the patient of a normal employment of projective identification precipitates a disaster through the destruction of an important link. Inherent in this disaster is the establishment of a primitive superego which denies the use of projective identification.
James S. Grotstrein
See also: Alpha function.
Bion, Wilfred R. (1967). On arrogance. In his Second thoughts (pp. 87-88). London: Heineman.
36. Arrogance (See also Boastfulness, Conceit, Egotism.)
- amber traditional symbol of arrogance. [Gem Symbolism: Jobes, 81]
- Arachne presumptuously challenges Athena to weaving contest; transformed into spider. [Gk. Myth.: Leach, 69]
- Catherine de Bourgh, Lady arrogant, vulgar woman. [Br. Lit.: Pride and Prejudice ]
- Citizen Kane rich and powerful man drives away friends by use of power. [Am. Cinema: Halliwell, 149]
- Coriolanus class-conscious and contemptuous leader. [Br. Lit.: Coriolanus ]
- Darcy, Fitz William proud of superior station. [Br. Lit.: Pride and Prejudice ]
- Duck, Donald overbearing comic strip character with a chip on his shoulder. [Comics: Horn, 216–217]
- Dundreary, Lord his aristocratic haughtiness a trademark. [Br. Lit.: Our American Cousin ]
- Ferrara, Duke of has had his wife murdered for too little appreciation of her place. [Br. Poetry: Browning My Last Duchess in Magill IV, 247]
- Humpty Dumpty arbitrarily gives his own meanings to words, and tolerates no objections. [Br. Lit.: Lewis Carroll Through the Looking-Glass ]
- Lucifer rebel archangel who challenged God’s supremacy. [Christian Hagiog.: Collier’s, XII, 143]
- Lucy know-it-all cartoon character gives advice to other children. [Comics: “Peanuts” in Horn, 543]
- Niobe for boasting of superiority, her children are killed. [Gk. Myth.: Hall, 224; Rom. Lit.: Metamorphoses ]
- rue traditional symbol of arrogance. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 177]
- tall sunflower indicates haughtiness. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 177]
- Uzziah king of Judah assumed priests’ function of burning incense; punished with leprosy. [O.T.: II Chronicles 26:16–19]
- veni, vidi, vici Caesar’s dispatch describing his subjugation of Pharnaces (47 B.C.). [Rom. Hist.: Brewer Note-Book, 923]
- Volumnia magisterial mother of Coriolanus; molds his character. [Br. Lit.: Coriolanus ]
- yellow carnation traditional symbol of arrogance. [Flower Symbolism: Jobes, 291]
- yellow sultan traditional symbol of arrogant contempt. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 177]
Artfulness (See CUNNING .)
209. Egotism (See also Arrogance, Conceit, Individualism.)
- Baxter, Ted TV anchorman who sees himself as most important news topic. [TV: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in Terrace, II, 70]
- cat symbol of egotism because of its aloofness and independence. [Animal Symbolism: Mercatante, 49]
- Milvain, Jasper sees himself as extremely important in literary world. [Br. Lit.: New Grub Street, Magill I, 647–649]
- narcissus symbol of self-centeredness. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 176]
- Narcissus falls in love with his reflection in pond. [Gk. Myth.: Brewer Handbook, 745; Rom. Lit.: Metamorphoses ]
- Number One portraying politician Crawford; self-gain as tour de force. [Am. Lit.: Number One ]
- Patterne, Sir Willoughby epitome of vanity and self-centeredness, tries to dominate all around him. [Br. Lit.: The Egoist in Magill I, 241]
- Patterne, Sir Willoughby his egotism spelled his defeat. [Br. Lit.: The Egoist, Magill I, 241-242]
- Skimpole, Horace egocentric, wily fraud. [Br. Lit.: Bleak House ]
- Templeton self-centered rat. [Children’s Lit.: Charlotte’s Web ]
e·go·tism / ˈēgəˌtizəm/ • n. the practice of talking and thinking about oneself excessively because of an undue sense of self-importance. DERIVATIVES: e·go·tist n. e·go·tis·tic adj. e·go·tis·ti·cal adj. e·go·tis·ti·cal·ly adv. e·go·tize / -ˌtīz/ v.